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June 19th, 2009
06:10 AM ET

Is feminism obsolete?

Editor's Note: Every Friday we touch on a hot button issue that, we hope, generates strong opinion from you. The segment is called "Just Sayin'" – and this week Carol Costello ponders the question: Is feminism obsolete? Tell us what you think!

From CNN's Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

It seems every time the media spotlight shines on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, there's another debate about feminism. Some conservative women were upset feminists didn't protest loudly when late night host David Letterman initially refused to apologize for his off-color joke about Palin's daughter.

Is that because Sarah Palin isn't a feminist? Can a conservative woman be a feminist these days?

Not really, says Republican Strategist and CNN Commentator Mary Matalin. "No conservative woman would choose to call herself a feminist as it's described by liberals today," she says.

Matalin says feminism used to be about the freedom to choose the life you wanted. Now it's an exclusive club, closed off to women like Sarah Palin.

"No conservative woman would choose to call herself a feminist as it's described by liberals today." And who epitomizes today's feminism? In Harper's Bazaar, feminist writer Naomi Wolf calls film star and humanitarian Angelina Jolie, "the embodiment of female power and liberation."

Liberal women champion Hillary Clinton. Blogger Jessica Valenti, of feministing.com, says even a pro-life woman can be considered a feminist, however, "if a woman is actively fighting against legislation that allows for abortion and allows for access to birth control, than no, I don't think she can be a feminist."

So, if the word "feminist" is weighed down by such political baggage, why keep using it?

"The truth is," Valenti says, "I think no matter what word we used, if it meant women's rights it would end up being a bad word. It would end up being disparaged, so I think we have to stick with what we've got."


Filed under: Just Sayin'
soundoff (139 Responses)
  1. Egallantry

    Try The New Agenda at http://thenewagenda.net/blog/

    It is a non-partisan group that calls out sexism and misogyny wherever it is found. It began during the 2008 election cycle. It called out gender-based attacks on Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

    The media pundits understand that racism is not funny, harmless, or kind. Yet they encourage sexism at every turn. Women and girls deserve better.

    June 19, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  2. Risa Stokes

    Feminism is not obsolete – It has evolved to mean the empowerment of women by themselves. In this new? millenium, it should not be linked to any political affiliation. Any woman who is doing what she wants, for herself is the lesson in equality we all so long ago tried to convey.

    June 19, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  3. Karen Coffman

    I thinl if Mrs. Palin wants to play with big boys she needs to take the
    the knocks llike everyone else. Women want to take on mens jobs they are no different them

    June 19, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  4. Karen Sulprizio

    I have been participating in women's rights since the late 60's, early 70's. I was in the work force when – females coming out of the womb were automatically assumed to know how to type and make coffee. I instructed the 1st male in our office – on the fine art of making coffee! Have always prided myself on BEING a feminist. Only the media & far 'right' has turned this into a negative. A 'feminist' is simply someone who believes in equality for women – on ALL counts; including the right to choose. Yuo don't get to 'select' which part of being a feminist you believe in, and lump the rest of it as 'a dirty word'. Ms. Palin is not a feminist, however, thanx to all of us who have worked in the past – she is now Governor. This was not a common place situation in the late 60's. I tend to shake my head – when women forget that the benefits they now have – are BECAUSE of the feminists: better pay, the ability to buy a home without a signature from your father or (ex) husband, appropriate terminologies, references & treatment in the workplace and respect for intelligence – so that a woman can achieve and be successful in a professional life – INCLUDING politics.

    June 19, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  5. Lynda Hilburn

    This is a perfect example of how women are diminished daily. How can a female TV personality ask this question with such a cavalier attitude? Sexism and misogyny are alive and well in America, and all over the world. I'm always flabbergasted when a woman comes out against women's rights. I liked what the woman (Valenti) in the TV piece said about any word we use that means women's rights will be a "bad word." I recommend this excellent blog: http://www.thenewagenda.net

    You'll notice The New Agenda (http://www.thenewagenda.net) supports ALL women. Regardless of labels.

    I recommend that the founder of The New Agenda (Amy Siskind) be offered a regular role on CNN as a contributor.

    Feminism: "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."

    - Cheris Kramerae & Paula Treichler

    June 19, 2009 at 10:58 am |
  6. Greg

    My 58 year old wife is a strong, independant woman, wife, mother, grandmother. She has been a professional chemist all of her adult life and has made more money than myself most of the time. She is an actor in the local theatre group, is active in church and has won speech competitions. She is also pro-life. Therefore, she would be looked down on by those hypocrites who consider themselves the real feminists. But she is looked up to by me.

    June 19, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  7. KHill

    I agree that feminism embodies the idea that men and women have equal opportunity, however, I also consider feminism to be a mindset. Just last evening I was speaking with a group about my plans to conduct field studies with a geology team in Yellowstone National Park. A woman in the group said, "Oh, is your husband a geologist." My response was, "No, I am a geologist. I was invited to accompany this group for a 2-week field study of the vent systems." Until women themselves have changed their own viewpoint of women, the goal has not been accomplished.

    June 19, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  8. Ted

    A couple of perspectives. One is a lot of people don't remember the 60s and the fact that women had major obstacles to equality. Now many of those obstacles are non-existent. However, there is still a need for advocacy of women's issues.

    As a result of this, Feminism with a capital "F" appears to be dead, it has become a political movement for the advancement of narrow issues. Feminism with a small "f" is still alive and is carried out by women everywhere asserting their rights.

    June 19, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  9. Carol and Ronni

    This is from Carol and Ronni, who worked on the story. Thanks for all your comments - it's a fascinating discussion. We'd like to address Claire McAllister's comment.. An interesting note from both a liberal and a conservative feminist and how they think alike, yet differently. Liberal feminists would believe in affirmative action. Conservative feminists do not ascribe to what they call "a quota system." They'd rather achieve equality at work without a court order. But in the end, both believe essentially the same thing - equal pay for equal work. So a question - isn't there room in the tent for both points of view?

    June 19, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  10. William K. B.

    Stephanie-"Heaven forbid even more women enter the workplace"

    Thats not what I meant, its the glare, its the feeling that a lot of women including yourself are giving off by this. A vibe can go a long way and by miss understanding and jumping all over me like a squirrel goin' after nuts you prove my point. I'm not even in the work environment, I'm a senior in High School and I get women blaming their periods and they get such power that a bad hair day is a good excuse. I could care less who I work with, as long as they work hard, are passionate and don't let anything or any excuse get in the way unless its a death in the family or something that everyone understands.

    My simple point is, where the hell is our support?! We get the buds down at the bar, which is good, till you run out of money. I know enough of my father's friends who've had their lives destroyed by their wives who were the dirty peep shows that sucked at parenting. Its the water fountain cry and that feministic power that now can truly tilt the balance.

    June 19, 2009 at 10:21 am |
  11. Kay R

    If the idea of equality is obsolete then feminism is obsolete. Feminism is essentially a civil rights movement based on the principle people (male or female) have a right to be treated fairly and by extension, this principle includes fairness regardless of race, religion, nationality, sexual preference, age, or any other designation that becomes an excuse to deny equal rights to others. I am proud of our country for the progress we have made with civil rights and believe the majority of Americans will continue to work toward this goal.

    June 19, 2009 at 10:10 am |
  12. Kristen

    I was truly disturbed to see this piece on CNN this morning. I usually watch CNN for all of my news but think after this piece I'll have to look elsewhere. Feminism, the fight for equality, will not be obsolete so long as inequality exists. Women still make $.76 to a man's dollar, are sexually harassed at work, and 1 in 3 women will be the victims of sexual assault. These are only a few reasons men and women are not equal – there are many more. The fact that feminism welcomes people from all walks of life regardless of gender, race, class, sexuality, etc. is what allows for various definitions of feminism (should be in plural form: feminisms). As a Women's Studies and Clinical Psychology instructor I'm horrified to think about the message this piece has sent to all the young men and women out there who are already bombarded with negative images of what a feminism is and what feminism means. CNN should be ashamed to be participating in such rhetoric that women-haters everywhere have endorsed.

    June 19, 2009 at 10:09 am |
  13. joselyn

    We are the Mothers & Daughters of Feminist America. Some of Us Women think it was fine for David Letterman to make Sexual Jokes about Teen Girls & some of Us don't... But it's OK for Us to have Lively Disagreements AMONG AMERICAN WOMEN – SINCE, IT IS "OUR EXCLUSIVE WORLD GROUP" THAT AMERICAN MEN ARE NOT PART OF & DO NOT HAVE A SAY IN THIS MATTER!! They should as often said, "Mind they're own house..!"

    And, I am (you could believe it) happilly married, for years to a male who is as assertive as I am. I would have it no other way.

    June 19, 2009 at 10:01 am |
  14. Matt Yoder

    In response to Stephnanie:

    In general:
    How often do women ask men out on dates? At least as much as men do that for women? NOPE, not even close!

    How often do women VOLUNTEER to pay for dates? Of course there are exceptions, but I mean IN GENERAL. Agin, not even close.

    How often are men expected to take on the dirtiest, heaviest labor when there are women around who could do the same? Who does the MAJORITY of the heavy labor work in this country?

    How often do we see women let off the hook for criminal offenses that men are heavily punished for? The recent situation where female teachers who molested boys were let off with a slap on the wrist is a good example of this, though tehre are MANY areas where women are given more power in ore legal system than men. Like in custody cases...

    I could provide many more examples, but this will suffice for now. I think part of the downfall of feminism is that many women think all women want it, which isn't true, and that many women (not all) want to preserve the "victim status" for women as long as they can to realize more benefits. They simply refuse to acknowledge that many times MEN are the victims of women. They refuse to hold their own group to the same standards they want to hold men to.

    I am ALL FOR gender equality, but not double standards. When women have the same set of expectations of themselves and their own gender as much as they expect from men, then REAL progress will have been made.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:56 am |
  15. stephanie

    To Jon – NOW actually endorsed Obama before Hillary was even out of the race. So you know, they might not be your best example.

    And this is precisely what I meant by the history of feminism – feminism today, as a social movement, since we seem to be in agreement about what the definition is, is radically different from what is was in the 60s and 70s. This is why you hear about second and third wave feminists – go google "the Barnard sex wars" if you want to get a glimpse of the divisions within feminism as a SOCIAL ORGANIZATION itself.

    I must repeat again, women are not a cohesive group of like-minded individuals. We do not vote in blocs. We have different views, different ideals, different things that make us go to the polls and for different reasons than our female neighbors. Some women are in same sex relationships, some women believe that homosexuality is a sin. Same with abortion rights. While not every woman may be part of the feminist movement – as defined by the social organization that moves toward change – that does not mean every woman isn't a feminist. And, as a principal of the feminist movement, not every woman SHOULD be part of the movement – unless she herself chooses to be.

    That does not mean that women should not be penalized in the job market. That does mean women should deal with double standards and have to defend the fact that they can do a certain job EVEN THOUGH they are female.

    Most scholars believe that a fourth wave of feminism has begun – and in many ways, it disagrees with the political strategies of its "parents", in the same way girls disagree with their mothers on some things in the course of their lives. We achieve a goal, but there's always another one. Sixteen million cracks in the glass ceiling, but the ceiling's still there.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:49 am |
  16. Joe

    There are too many words in the American language. Feminism is one of them. It's just another liberal special interest group. I like barack but lets face it. Special interest groups are just another way of saying we are going to pass laws Like collective bargaining and affirmative action to Line one guys pockets at the expense of another guys pockets. If it were up to me the word feminism wold be thrown into a bonfire with words like Collective Bargaining and Affirmative Action and also equal rights. They are all just special interest groups designed to gather votes of wimps and winers.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:47 am |
  17. stephanie

    William – "because women will scream sexism and men will just groan and go about their business getting the work that needs to be done done for the world."

    Thanks for proving that the need for feminism still exists!

    Heaven forbid even more women enter the workplace – no work will ever get done! And let's forget the women leaders that HAVE made a difference when we've given them opportunity to . . . it's strange, but I often find MEN complaining of "sexism" when women are successful in the workplace, in politics, or using the phrase "It's just because she's a woman" or things like "Must be that time of the month".

    It's funny, because I know many women who experience sexual harassment at work but don't say anything because they don't want to lose their jobs. More than once I've heard comments like "must be that time of the month" when a man doesn't get the reaction they want from a woman.

    So yeah, let's let the men do the work of the world. Cause you know, Iran's kicking some ass right now, I've got to say.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:36 am |
  18. Angela

    FEMINISM...meaning the concept of ensuring women's rights and their ability to choose things for themselves...will NEVER die! ...Do we have equal pay. Are women still exploited (videos, movies, etc.)? Do people/men still want to force women to not have necessary/"reasonable" abortions? The answer to all of these things is....YES! The only thing I want to change about Feminism: is the agreement that women made/the agreement ("contract") that women had forced on to them, when they demanded their "equal" rights...that in order for them to be treated fairly/equally...they had to accept unequal, life threatening/health draining...schedules, burdens and responsibilities. ...Something they shouldn't have had to do, BECAUSE being treated fairly/equal is something they should have had ALL ALONG...as human beings (think "born with certain inalienable rights"). Women went to work/undertook careers...BUT their "at home schedules" mostly remain "UNEQUAL." When they come home: cooking, housework, homework and the care of kids...is still there (and often no help is given). I'm NOT doing it! BOTTOM LINE: there is MORE WORK to do! ...Our homes, jobs & our society/country...must do more to make the burdens EQUAL. ...Since women have an EQUAL RESPONSIBILITY TO WORK [and our society/country doesn't allow us to structure this any differently (though this must change)]...MEN should have an equal responsibility TO HELP AT HOME, with the kids, etc....and anywhere else that it is needed. I have NO intention of killing myself for the rights I should have had...IN THE FIRST PLACE!!! ...Feminism–is NOT dead "my friend!!!" 🙂 Unfortunately–women are just too tired and/or too complacent to do anything/"complete the job." BUT: let's refuse to accept this and KEEP MOVING THINGS FORWARD!!!

    June 19, 2009 at 9:33 am |
  19. Chris

    In comment with Jan and Katherine, I must admit that I was surprised that CNN posed such a simplistic question about feminism. I always assumed that CNN was feminist and that such questions on the topic would be a little more thought provoking.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:32 am |
  20. Jon

    To the Anti Bimbo,

    You just made the point as to why feminism is dead. You CLEARLY have something against Sarah Palin and you based your entire premise on her. When has NOW or any other woman's group EVER come to the defense of a woman that is Republican, or has made something of herself, other than Hillary?

    June 19, 2009 at 9:30 am |
  21. Denise

    There are still occupations that few women are considered for due to the tradtion of hiring males, ie. ship captain, airline pilot. I am a female yacht captain, one of a handful in the world with top credentials presently out of work. When the day comes that my gender will make no difference what-so-ever when hiring and there are equal numbers of females in these positions worldwide, then that is the day that we will have no need for feminism. I am not holding my breath.....

    June 19, 2009 at 9:27 am |
  22. stephanie

    Matt – What about sexual equality, then? Or racial equality? Let's face it, every permutation of "difference" in our society has its stereotypes and its setbacks. Feminism is just one of the many fights for equality in this nation, and simply says that gender should not determine the choices that get made.

    But I have to ask, what perks, beside no drafting, are you thinking of that women get? If you say paternity leave, I would say that's actually part of the feminist agenda – what happens if the mother is the breadwinner of the family? or if there's a single father? It's about equality on all levels.

    It's easy to say there are perks from a positive of privilege. Just ask a minority.

    However, while men are still making more money, being promoted over women, have to fight ridiculous double standards that were clearly on display in the Hillary/Obama campaign (She's not man enough to be president, but she's too harsh. She's too ambitious, she's not "soft" enough, she cries, she is well-educated, she's got the background for the job, she's never dealt with foreign leaders on her own, etc. etc.). The gender hypocrisy was phenomenal – and then you have Sarah Palin, who takes her special needs baby back to work 3 days after birth with a crib in her office, but that's not too ambitious. It's not too ambitious for a mother of five with a child under a year to embark on a national campaign. Or it is too ambitious.

    If there's one thing we learned from the ERA, it's that women are not a cohesive voting block. Palin and Clinton showed this even more. Men are not considered a single demographic the way women are.

    But back to my question, really, what are the perks?

    June 19, 2009 at 9:26 am |
  23. Carrie

    Matalin is an idiot. Does she listen to what comes out of her mouth? "Matalin says feminism used to be about the freedom to choose the life YOU wanted. Now it’s an exclusive club, closed off to women like Sarah Palin." (emphasis on YOU mine). Sarah Palin and these anti-choice women are trying to make the life the rest of us want conform to their beliefs. These anti-choicers need to realize that the case against abortion is real simple. If YOU don't want one, don't have one. However that choice is between a woman, her Doctor and HER God. Keep your nose out of MY uterus and we won't have a problem.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:25 am |
  24. Fredly

    Sara endures, thanks in part to the continued devoton of David Letteman's die hard convction to his politiccs by stiing publicity for the likes of Martha Stewart, Ophra Winfrey, and his long time favorite, George W. Bush. But have you noticed these jabs seem to come back to Dave in some hidden beneficial manor – like Neilsn Ratings ?

    Problem is, why does Dave not consider laughfs from positive comments about Democrats no beneficial to his Neison Ratings and his own paycheck.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:23 am |
  25. Jonathan Sudler

    Unfortunately, the uneducated have misused and abused the "F" word. Feminism isn't about women specifically; it describes a course of actions which are inclusive rather than exclusive (e.g. paternalistic religion, male dominated law, or more to the point one individual instructing the masses as to what is absolutely right & wrong, thus a woman, such as Sarah Palin, can take a very paternalist approach to her actions). True Democracy is feminist in nature where the group makes decisions rather than a dictator).

    Therefore, men and women can work together with a feminist mindset. Feminism is about real equality, where one's opinion or knowledge is not colored by one's gender. As long as the scales regarding human social issues are unbalanced, the practice of Feminism is far from obsolete.

    Jonathan Sudler
    BFA student, Alfred University, NY

    June 19, 2009 at 9:22 am |
  26. Kris in VA

    Feminism is not dead because sexist ideology is still prevalent today in our country and throughout the world. Including the statistics mentioned by some other feminists in this response I would like to add a few more. One in three women have been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some way. Two million girls aged 5 to 15 are taken into the commercial sex trade every year. 130 million girls and young women have undergone female genital mutilation.
    I would also like to mention that although not all women subscribe to feminist ideology of equality; all women deal with feminist related issues everyday. Any gender can be sexist just like an gender can be a feminist. Palin may be a woman but she is not FOR women. She seems to uphold traditional values that try to keep women "down."

    June 19, 2009 at 9:18 am |
  27. Lila Stoeckle

    Feminism means empowering women, supporting women, protecting women, recognizing women as equal in every sense. We certainly need all of that in today's world! Of course all feminists are not going to agree on every political issue, even abortion. If a pro-life feminist truly believes that life happens at conception, won't she use some of her woman-power to protect the unborn? In the evangelical Christian world there is CBE – Christians For Biblical Equality – working hard to free women to become all they're created to be!

    June 19, 2009 at 9:16 am |
  28. Frances Speegle

    I heard nothing mentioned this morning about feminist men. My husband believes in strong women, he's married to one. We have both put our lives on the line to protect a woman's right to choose and would again, if need be. He has proudly stood beside and behind me supporting my activist roles. I've seen many marriages fail when a woman's consciousness is raised and her spouse can't cope with this new woman. My husband has not only coped but has grown with me and joined me in our fight for women's rights.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:16 am |
  29. Fran

    As long as there is inequality between the sexes then feminism will not be obsolete. There is not equality between the sexes. I am age 63 and have seen some changes along the way. It has come a way, but not there yet. Thank you.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:15 am |
  30. Barbara Faria

    The feminist movement has been dead for a long time!!!
    They are nothing but a liberal political lobby.
    Who have they supported lately???? none of the women insulted by the media, comics, etc.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:15 am |
  31. Angela

    I think the word "feminism" is a distraction. That is evident in the fact that your segment focused on the word and modern definition, rather than the most significant part of the story (in my opinion) that has been generally overlooked by the media and, according to your segment, overlooked by NOW as well. Does everyone on this earth forget that Sarah Palin put her pregnant daughter on a plate for all to feed on at the 2008 Republican National Convention? As a Liberal (a better L word, in my opinion) Democrat, I was horrified that a mother could do such a thing to her child for the shear need for power and fame. So, you see, I don't think Sarah Palin is a feminist because I think feminism can and should (if one has children) include good mothering and protection of your children while you reach for your own goals. David Letterman may have gone too far, but let's not forget that he's not the girl's mother. Her own mother served her up to be the joke of a generation. And, by the way, the young girl's own mother once again took the PR/power trip bait and made something out of David Letterman's comments so they could be played and replayed again and again for the world to hear (rather than just his audience). Once again, she fed off of her child. That's not feminism.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:14 am |
  32. Erika

    Feminism is only obsolete when Sarah Paline does not have to position herself as a teacher of sorts - bringing to the attention of Letterman and his supporters the inappropriate nature of publicly "joking" about her teenage daugher's sexuality and ability to reproduce. The cultural santions regarding the ogling and lusting of much older men after teenage girls have seemingly dissapated.

    Further, feminism is obsloete When David Letterman can determine without "intervention" that suggesting a young girl is "knocked up" might actually be saying more about his beliefs about what girls should or shouldn't do, be or act, rather than about the actual actions of Bristol Palin.

    Finally, when can suggest feminism is dead when we know without a doubt that women all over the world, not just our HIlary Clintons, and Sarah Palins, but the women in developing nations, the poorest of the poor and least among up, have the means and abliity to make choices about education, marriage, voting rights, reproduction, working, economic independence and the like.

    I would suggest that feminism is a world-wide movement, not simply something affluent, white, American women have the ability to claim dead or obsolet. My bet is that there are many, many women both within and outside the U.S. who know the feminist movement is alive and working to recitify their historical, cutlural and political inequities.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:12 am |
  33. Taylor Dickinson

    Feminism is in no way unreconcilible with pro life stance...I for one oppose abortion from an ethical standpoint, that is I cannot support the killing of an innocent human being. However, women fully and unquestionably deserve the same rights and opportunities given to men as well as the same treatment under the law...gender should not allow the right to kill.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:12 am |
  34. Pat Engelhardt

    Feminism will never be obsolete as long as women are still part of the human race. Just as we have said for years that women's reproductive rights should be kept out of lawmakers hands, so should the word feminism be kept out of political party word wars. Feminism is clearly defined in our dictionaries as a word that defines woman's efforts for equality across the ages. President Obama said in his recent speech that we still struggle with women's equality issues in the U.S.
    Pat

    June 19, 2009 at 9:10 am |
  35. William K. B.

    The word is taboo because I think I speak for a lot of men who are tired of being stereotyped as sexist pigs with no moral standing beyond their pants. You place stereotypes on us so why can't we, its unfair balance that should be really addressed but never will be because women will scream sexism and men will just groan and go about their business getting the work that needs to be done done for the world.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:09 am |
  36. elderiggs

    The Feminists didn’t protest at all because the good Governor is only concerned about herself and everyone can see this.
    Look, Her daughter however old she was at the time got pregnant while she was living at home in her mother's, Governor Palin's house!

    Huh, didn't protest? The Feminists were trying to hide their faces from the
    Hypocrite salad of Sarah Palin actions.

    Always,
    Elder Jay Biggs

    June 19, 2009 at 9:08 am |
  37. Patti Evans

    .Iran is a good case in point to see the need and to find a contrast of a society that tries to stifle human rights and the rights of women. It is no mistake that it is women and youth leading the dissent in that struggle.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:08 am |
  38. Katherine

    Better question -in our society where women have achieved so much, can feminism ever be obsolete? Feminist ideology has fundamentally changed the structure of our society, and if we have finally gotten to the point where we can even ask this question, where women can be "over" the feminist movement, then I think that embodies the success of the movement and its stamp on our society, not obsoleteness.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:08 am |
  39. Sharon Peterson

    Feminism is the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Feminism is a word. Words are symbols we use to talk about issues with each other. Regardless of what we talk about, political groups and news agencies inflate issues so that they're liberal/conservative, right/left, red state/blue state, polarizing issues. Most of us are centrists, interested in communicating with one another and sharing different viewpoints. Either that, or we just don't care.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:08 am |
  40. ANGEL

    While not obsolete, the word feminism needs updating to include women like me who want equal rights, equal pay and equal respect for women but who also oppose abortions.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:07 am |
  41. Amie Black

    The word "feminism" is obsolete because everyone seems to have different opinions of what the work means. We all just need to look past our different opinions and keep striving for equal pay and rights. If women can not even band together for our rights how can we expect the rest of the world to even listen.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:05 am |
  42. John Kneeland

    For 30 years, right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh with his "feminazis" have attempted, based on no evidence, to make feminism a dirty word among people who don't understand what it means. They've tried to do the same with "liberalism." Don't fall for it.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:04 am |
  43. Katie Corrigan

    Feminism is not obsolete – but perhaps the word is. We no longer call ourselves suffragists or women libbers, but we still support the ideals that those women fought for. Words die out. Young women no longer consider themselves feminists not because they don't believe in women's rights, but because the word no longer embodies those ideals to them.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:04 am |
  44. Matt Yoder

    The reason feminism has gotten a tarnished image is that so many "feminists" tried to include double standards in the female gender definition in an attempt to place them off limits to criticism and change. There are many areas where women enjoy perks that they do not extend to men. How is that about TRUE gender equality? Until that changes, the term feminism will continue to represent something unwanted by many people.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  45. teresa

    feminism is not obselete. it is whatever topic a woman chooses to voice her opinion over and however she decides to lead her life that makes her feel feminine. Just because a female pushes the choice to have an abortion doesn't mean she's any less feminine than you or any other female. We are women, we are stronger than men, we need to stand united and push to have our voice be heard as a whole, after all, if we let a man take away our option to have an abortion, we are in a sense letting a man take away other options too, after all, we are the only human sex who can bear a child.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:02 am |
  46. Jan

    Shame on you! What a stupid question! If you really think feminism is obsolete, then perhaps all of the women working at CNN should go home, get pregnant and be sure to shine your husbands’ shoes while you’re at it. Sick! Suggested reading – Katharine Hepburn’s autobiography, where she describes what her mother, a real feminist, endured to fight for women’s right to vote in this country. Sarah Palin is an embarrassment to all women with a brain.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:01 am |
  47. Coleman

    Feminism is not dead...as long as men have most of the stuff that defines power we need a women's movement! Sarah Palin is not a feminist because she uses her women's movement power to constrict the rights of women and expand those of men. As an African American i do not see Clarence Thomas as being freedom seeking for Black people, You can be of a group yet against it

    June 19, 2009 at 9:01 am |
  48. Lynn

    Feminist will always be a valid philosophy with no threat of becoming obsolete. There are variations to ways of thinking, just as being religous/spiritual could be expressed many ways. There are varying degrees and length and areas that feminism touches; boils down to the reality that women are as valid/worthwhile in this world and should have the right to self determination and treated with the same fairness as anyone else. I definitely believe a woman can be pro-life and a feminist; and I truly believe there are many feminist Republicans. To think otherwise is naive. No one believes the total of any particular philosophy or it applies it to every area of life.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:00 am |
  49. The Anti Bimbo

    I love how Palin got all high and mighty about protecting society's young girls! It's a shame she:

    1. Makes the women of Alaska who are sexually assaulted pay for their own rape kits.
    2. Reduced the funding for medical exams for female victims

    Alaska had the largest increase in teenage birthrates in 2006-what's Sarah's plan for that?

    June 19, 2009 at 9:00 am |
  50. Raven T.

    Feminism, to me is any female that is standing up for females everywhere supporting a female voice that is not being heard. It doesn't matter if she is pro-life or pro-choice. We all have a voice.

    June 19, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  51. Aisha

    Feminism will never be obsolete because women will never stop caring about equal rights or the rights to make their own decisions about their lives. I don't think it needs to be a left-wing stance. In fact, I think that liberals that say women like Sarah Palin cannot be feminist damage the term and are responsible for why the word is now so taboo. As much as I may disagree with her, Palin and other conservative women have the right to whatever political and life choices they make. That's what feminism should be about–it should be inclusive term, rather than a divisive one.

    June 19, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  52. CSM

    Another idiotic way to waste air time.

    Is the word feminism obsolete? It is, just like liberal and conservative.

    Get back to work!

    June 19, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  53. Jyoti

    For understanding true feminism, read the writings of Margaret Noble(Sister Nivedita), who was an Irish revolutionary in the late 19th century and became a disciple of Swami Vivekananda.

    June 19, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  54. Jon

    The term feminism died when the so-called leaders of the movement stopped defending every woman and started picking and choosing feminism based on political affiliation.

    June 19, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  55. chris

    Palin is NOT a feminist...she's a walking Jerry Springer show.

    June 19, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  56. Jenna

    The word "feminism" has indeed become alienated from it's original meaning and rendered meaningless in modern society. Even so, maybe it's a good thing.

    June 19, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  57. laurel dinkel

    Is Feminism Obsolete? What planet are you living on?

    June 19, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  58. Nancy

    Feminism isn't dead as long as I'm alive.

    June 19, 2009 at 8:54 am |
  59. Cecelia

    Feminism is alive, but has developed a negative connotation. I attend a women’s college where many freshman come in shunning the idea. Despite their political background though, they leave as proud feminists.

    June 19, 2009 at 8:53 am |
  60. Susan B.

    My head exploded when I heard your piece this morning.

    A few points.

    Men are not allowed to comment about feminism; feminism isn't dead but I think you were trying to raise a point about selective feminism. Why did the repubbies bash Hillary so relentlessly and yet they consistently cry "foul" when challenges their beloved Sarah?

    Letterman's joke was really about A-Rod's propensity for indiscretions and NOT "perverted sex with a 14 year old." I don't know that Letterman knew which of the Palin daughters was at the game and by the way, who really knows or cares about the names of the Palin spawn?

    When you parade your pregnant high school dropout daughter around like a prize poodle, you should expect some fallout from your bad parenting. Why in the world would you do that do a child?

    Stephanie's comment above was well said-feminism is about women having the freedom to choose their path. However, I'm the first to admit that I tend to respect self-made women more than beauty pageant contestants or high school dropouts.

    June 19, 2009 at 8:49 am |
  61. Gwennyd

    Feminism will not be obsolete until .......
    there is a woman president
    there are 50% women Supreme Court justices, US senators and representatives
    abortion is totally legal
    everyone can name as many women athletes as male ones

    June 19, 2009 at 8:37 am |
  62. stephanie

    Susan – pro-choice is about choices. To one woman, that "pre-born woman" isn't a "pre-born woman" – it's a collection of cells, it's an embryo, it's a parasite, so on, while to another woman, it IS a pre-born woman, it's a baby from conception, it's a being with rights.

    Each woman should be allowed to believe what is true to her, and act in accordance. This isn't Iran, we shouldn't be forcing religion on anyone. I think the choice needs to be made by the individual, in individual context, until science and the courts come down with some big decision about when a soul is created and when "life" – with legal rights – begins.

    And when (if) that moment happens, women should fight for paid maternity leave, reduced stigma for pregnant working women, pregnant teenagers, we should increase sex education, we should hold the fathers as responsible as we hold the mothers, and we should increase domestic adoption programs instead of having people trying to create designer babies.

    Even if we become a nation where abortion is illegal, we will still have a lot of ground to cover in increasing women's rights.

    To everyone else, check out the history of feminism. Feminism is not short-haired unmarried women. The face of feminism is Hillary Clinton, or Lani Guinier, or my friends from high school, one of which went to West Point and is currently leading a tank division in Afghanistan, one of which is happily married and a full time mom, one who is in grad school looking at certain protein deteoration in Alzheimer's patients, and one who is riding horses in Australia.

    Feminism, today, is women living their lives the way they want. The goal of feminism, I would hope, is to not rip each other apart for our differences, but to celebrate what we share. And keep fighting for the equality that we have yet to achieve.

    (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-06-15/the-daily-show-for-women/?cid=bsa:mostpopular3 – this is a great segment about "commercials for women".)

    June 19, 2009 at 8:27 am |
  63. little2scoot

    Burning of a bra is a young girl's expression. After having a woman presidential and a woman vice-presidential choice in the last election, I fear an older woman would not burn her bra.

    June 19, 2009 at 8:19 am |
  64. Geoff

    Is Feminisim obsolete?
    No, it is not obsolete, if you look carefully at what is the root of feminism. Feminism is just as relevant today as it was when Roe v. Wade created the ideology. The primary feminist issue is having abortion rights to be exercised freely by the individual female any without any outside interference.
    In this world, you can be male or female. If you are male you can be
    pro-feminist or anti-feminist. If you are female you can be feminist
    or anti-feminist.
    Those females that are against abortion rights are anti-feminist. A
    male cannot be a feminist at all. A female can be against exercising
    the abortion rights and still be a feminist as long as they are not against removing or denying abortion rights to others.
    Most conservative women become anti-feminist because they chose to deny the choice of abortion to other women. What they need to do to remain feminist, is to advocate and promote not having an abortion while preserving the right to choose for those who cannot be convinced of their point of view.
    The other "supposed" feminist issues are not really feminist. For example, equal pay is an issue that is important to blacks, hispanics, and other minorities, not just females. Abortion is the purist feminst issue, and that debate never seems to end.

    June 19, 2009 at 7:33 am |
  65. michael

    Yes Feminism is dead. It went from a strong organization fighting for
    woman's rights to a bunch of far left wing nut cases that no one takes
    serious anymore.

    Where were they when Hillary Clinton was being bashed by sexist
    remarks by the media when running against Obama for President ?

    Where were they when Carrie Prejean was being bashed by sexist
    remarks by a homosexual judge & later had her crown stripped
    for what she believes in ?

    An where were they when David Letterman made his sexist perverted
    jokes about Sarah Palin and her daughters ?

    So yes Feminism is dead.

    June 19, 2009 at 7:32 am |
  66. Joshua Roy

    I agree with you completely William, I actually feel that feminism is moving the counter to the original cause of the movement, of equal and fair oppurtunity and treatment. My mother was a very active feminist, and it led to me being the most confused and misdirected adolesant, i couldn'[t open doors for women when my mom was around but had to when my dad was around, ugh! i am stiil confused at the age of 27!

    June 19, 2009 at 7:30 am |
  67. Libby DeRoo

    Regarding your comments on how we can afford a one payer public health care system, I can't believe how brainwashed most americans are on the topic. At the moment most of us are paying co-pays for insurance coverage of varying amounts from 40 to 60 a pay period. We are also then paying copays at general practitioners of 25 per visit, and 40 for specialists!! Don't you see that you should be happy to have a tax INCREASE to pay for your medical. At the moment unemployed people, people who are limited to a maximum of $425 a week, are asked to pay 600 and more a month for medical coverage. Many, many times we are forced to wait long periods of time while our doctors appeal decisions by insurance companies' denials of treatment and/or tests. I lived in Canada for almost 30 years. Let me tell you from personal experience that the American system should be declared criminal. Health based upon wealth sucks. I hear all the time from Americans that in Canada people are forced to wait for treatment. In some cases, that is very true. What is also true is that is is better to wait for treatment than to be denied it entirely.

    Thank you for your attention and I would appreciate hearing your comments on this opinion.

    Libby DeRoo
    New York, NY

    June 19, 2009 at 7:27 am |
  68. Francois Ledoux ATRA

    The Biblical term "Woman was made from the rib of a Man", does not mean "Woman" was not created. Man was made from dust and Woman from "A rib". She was not made from his feet so she could be trample upon, neither was she made from his head to top him; she was rather made from near his shoulder to be EQUAL to him, and from near his heart to be LOVED. Feminism is therefore the creation of a selfish, confused and jealous Man, whom, in his roar cowardy over centuries and generations, would want to create the concept of Gender to hide his failures in the shadow of some non-existing superiority.

    June 19, 2009 at 7:27 am |
  69. Melinda

    Feminism is the movement that demands for women the same rights granted men. I am a feminist.

    Happily married with children and in the work force for 40 years.

    June 19, 2009 at 7:25 am |
  70. claire mcallister

    To those younger women who think feminism is obsolete: Women represent 19% of Congress, 11% of the Supreme Court, 0% of the US presidency - and you still make 78 cents to every dollar a man makes. Wake up. Wake up.

    June 19, 2009 at 7:22 am |
  71. Jessica

    Feminism isn't obsolete but it needs to be redefined to include empowered women who wish to stay home and raise their kids. As a woman who had a strong career in a male-dominated field and chose to give it up to raise my family, I feel 'feminists' today would look down upon my decision to be a full time mother, meanwhile I find it the most important job in the world. I am still a strong, educated, intelligent and independent woman who has chosen to stay home and be full-time mom and unfortunately today's society isn't set up for women like me anymore. We need the support of today's feminists.

    June 19, 2009 at 7:17 am |
  72. Jodie Knapton

    Women might not have as much to fight for in the U.S. these days, but issues of sexism still abound in the world AND feminism generates woman-centered communities and organizations that can be very positive, even life-changing, socio-cultural support systems.

    June 19, 2009 at 7:16 am |
  73. William K. B.

    It took away to come up with something sturdy but, I'm just gonna' say that Chivalry was killed by the cold silent glare of feminism and I wish it hadn't been. There's no way to avoid getting yelled as sexist as a man and you can't really call a woman sexist without getting yelled again so you know what, screw it!

    June 19, 2009 at 7:16 am |
  74. Joshua Roy

    Feminism is not only obsolete, but it is also a devisive crutch that takes the power away from the individual powerful women, and puts that power into a facade of an obsolete civil rights movement that most of americans under thirty never can completely understand.

    June 19, 2009 at 7:16 am |
  75. sarah

    Yes. I cant stand it when feminists try and talk for all women. They can keep their elitist liberal views to themselves. They only stand up for women who fall in line with them ideologically.

    June 19, 2009 at 7:12 am |
  76. Susan

    Louann – but a woman who forces her personal pro-abortion beliefs on others, ie: advocating for legislation for abortion on demand, legal through all nine months of pregnancy, is all right by you? That takes away from the rights of the pre-born women who are being killed through abortion. Hypocrite.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:53 am |
  77. joselyn

    ALL American Women are IN the MOST Feminist Club on Earth whether we like it or not. It is Our Heritage passed down to Us by Our Mothers who were both Religious & Atheist. We can Disagree Passionately about Abortion& Politics& Even be ANGRY w/One Another But American Men Do not have a SAY in this Club – Though they CONSTANTLY try!

    Pennsylvania

    June 19, 2009 at 6:52 am |
  78. Lupe T.

    Is Feminism Obsolete? This is like asking are feminists dead? Not as long as blood courses through our veins and our hearts keep beating. Not as long as even one more girl child is raped or a wife is beaten or an executive skipped for a promotion because she is a woman or a Palin gets attacked by the male or male iddentified press or a Hillary gets her well won election stolen. Just saying......

    June 19, 2009 at 6:50 am |
  79. Monica Gonzales

    Playboy is run "bi" women and tries to have too much fun. CNN takes things, and them too seriously. Playboy has never taken themselves seriously!! Oh yea u guys are trying to sell commercials to pay salaries. So weak!!

    June 19, 2009 at 6:49 am |
  80. Susan

    Tony – why should any group have stuck up for Monica Lewinsky? What she did was wrong.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:48 am |
  81. Toni Aiello

    Feminism is the fight for the equality of women as equal citizens with men in every respect. This requires nothing less than combination of equal opportunities, equal economic rights, and reproductive rights for every woman. It will never be obsolete, but it can be undermined.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:47 am |
  82. Susan

    (In response to the comment by Jessica that Carol quoted)
    So, feminism is pro-choice, but only if the choice is pro-abortion? A woman who is anti- abortion cannot be a feminist? I always suspected pro-choice was a lie.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:47 am |
  83. Louann

    Feminism is alive but has evolved from its original roots. Any woman who stands for equal rights for all is a feminist. A woman who has personal pro-life beliefs can be a feminist if she doesn't force those beliefs onto others. ie: advocating for legislation to ban abortions. This takes away the rights of other women.
    Women are leaders by virtue. We lead powerful families and powerful nations.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:45 am |
  84. Melanie

    Feminism started long before the 60's! This book gives a definition and history of feminism in all its forms. Radical Womanhood, by Caroline McCulley.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:44 am |
  85. Shag

    As a man, I hope feminism isn't dead. When you hear the racist and sexist comments hurled at Sonia Sotomayor, it's obvious that there is a ways to go. Just yesterday, Limbaugh said he give Ms. Sotomayer, and members of her women's club, " vacuum cleaners to clean-up behind themselves."
    The reason women on the Right aren't often included in the "feminist" rights group is because, they adhere to philosophies that advanced the concept of "small town values," "conservative values." The irony of this mind-set is that women like Matlin, Palin, and others on the right would have to be "barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen."
    I heard a few Republican men (Bush I, Starr) come to Ms. Sotomayor's defense, but not one women on the Right has, so far.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:44 am |
  86. Dawn Z., New Hampshire

    No only is feminism obsolete but so is the question posed. Feminism is alive and well today – and our gauge of feminism should not rest on the actions of Sarah Palin as played out in the media. Sarah Palin is not my gal and she does not represent me or my belief in feminism. In fact, feminism is needed as much today as it was in the 1970s – Violence against women is rising, women continue to make less money than men, women continue to experience more health disparities than men, and women's rights to choice are challenged everyday. The list of why feminism isn't dead can go on and on. We should not let the sexism that permeates our culture make us assume that feminism is dead and feminism has given up – in fact, feminists today are working in their personal and professional lives to challenge the inequalities of women in American culture on a daily basis. Feminism and feminist activism are alive and well – as they should be.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:44 am |
  87. Monica Gonzales

    FEMALE.. 28 yrs old..my husband is 50..I looked at him after your report. He lived thru the 60s and 70s. He said, " Do u feel equal?" I said, "I am equal! " He said I know. We burst in laughter. It's always been the Government and Society that IS behind the times. Women have ALWAYS fought bigger battles. Men just kill each other. My husband can't stop laughing cuz he really knows who's in charge, God I love him!! And really it's not about equality anymore, it's about raising a family..taking care of the bills... oh like it used to be!!

    June 19, 2009 at 6:41 am |
  88. Kim-Ha Albert in Seattle

    Ms. Castello, it is, after having watched TWO HOURS of the so-called Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, divisive and really a moot issue, when YOU want to bring up "feminism" in America this morning. Here we have seen an ocean of men shouting out "Death to America!"–I fail to see what good it is or what cause it serves to drag up this tired old piece of fat now, given the context of our horrible times–we have daily reports on your sister network HLN and the odious media shrew finding yet another "TOT MOM' who has murdered her baby, all for ratings, and IF you can trust the ex-CIA agent who you followed on your morning report, about how bad the war in Afghanistan is going, can you imagine all those Iranian men with AK-47's and many moms, dads, sons & daughters wearing OUR uniforms trying to deal with people, who, when they speak of human rights, and humans in general, do NOT include non-believers (nasrani) as human, hence you and many of us do not really exist in their eyes? What is the point of talking about feminism? Might as well talk about pet rocks or beanie babies–There are more pressing issues at hand now, and all I care about, is if she can shoot and she's in my trench, I need her NOW (even if she isn't a member of NOW).

    June 19, 2009 at 6:40 am |
  89. Jessica

    According to the websters dictionary feminism is-

    1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

    2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests. If this is what a feminist is then yes I am one.

    However, if it also means that in order for me to be a feminist I have to vote, think, and act like the majority of left wing feminist groups and therefore ignoring my own rights and interest... well then isn't that anti-feminist behavior on the part of the groups?

    June 19, 2009 at 6:35 am |
  90. stephanie

    At Barnard College of Columbia University, the Center for Research on Women (CROW) has long sold t-shirts that say "Dare to Say the F Word" – meaning feminism.

    Feminism is not an obsolete concept, but it is important to understand in historical context – people are now considering there to be a "fourth wave" of feminism – with first wave feminism beginning in the 70s. A lot has changed in a short period of time.

    However, I think that the definition of a feminist is a woman that supports women's rights – to work for equal pay, to choose what we want to wear, to hear, to say. And yes, to choose how to deal with our own bodies. It is hard to say that someone is "pro-women" when they do not support women being able to make their own decisions – in any case, not just abortion. To me, feminism is about choice and equality. Conservatives can definitely be feminist – I consider Olympia Snowe an amazing modern feminist. I think Mary Matalin is a feminist as well, showing that a woman does not need to believe and agree with everything that her husband says and believes!!

    Feminism is not obsolete, it is just changing form once again. Reactions to Sarah Palin should not be taken as indicative of the state of feminism – they should be taken for what they are – reactions to Sarah Palin, former VP candidate from Alaska, who carries enough baggage to split her own party, much less the widely diverse category of "women".

    June 19, 2009 at 6:35 am |
  91. Aisha

    Feminism is about equal rights. So unless I missed something and women all of a sudden are getting paid the same amount of money as men, or are no longer viewed as primarily sexual objects, I'd say that feminism is still a very relevant issue. (And for the record–I'm 21 years old, not caught up in what many frame as the battle of old, bitter women.)

    June 19, 2009 at 6:32 am |
  92. NAP

    Feminism is obsolete. The issue of Women Rights should continue to be pushed, but not through the people that call themselves feminists. The feminist movement today is highly politicized and nearly militant. If you have to look at a women and rank their level of "feminism" then that is either a military, or a flawed organization (referencing the debate on women power, clinton v. palin). Feminism today simply means women with short hair, and either unmarried or unhappily married.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:32 am |
  93. Sylvia Partridge

    The concept of feminism has been so diluted that it"s merely a catch phrase. As a woman who was able to break through an all-male work environment in the 70s, and saw it as a springboard to a new approach to life, feminism will never be obsolete.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:32 am |
  94. Tony

    Unfortunately when no women's advocacy spoke up for Monica Lewinski, it was when the obsolete cloud began. If a woman's group won't stick be about all women, they pale in acquiring a strong women's right advocacy.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:27 am |
  95. ron dainels

    Feminisim /Maleism what is your point? It is just one more way to divide people. Keep up your bad work and have all people hating each other for what ever reason you chose.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:27 am |
  96. Larry

    Yep . Feminism is as dead as a door nail these days.

    We have bigger fish to fry.

    By the way you're very pretty.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:26 am |
  97. Laura in Houston, TX

    Remember the old quote.."Feminism is the radical notion that women are people"...following this, all women define their own feminism and no one should be bracketed by a narrow definition.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:25 am |
  98. Pat from Virginia

    Honestly, I believe on what your definition of feminism is. My definition is the empowerment of women. Femenists fight for women to be treated as equals. No, feminism is not dead. It is alive and well.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:25 am |
  99. Steve

    Feminism, racism, etc., will not be obsolete until society stops using quotas for race, gender and religion to make decisions. Also, the media will need to stop acting and a 1,000x amplifier of these issues. I am tired of hearing of the first black president, the first woman AND Hispanic nominated to the Supreme Court. How about that CNN starts the trend and only deals with people based on their abilities and achievements.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:24 am |
  100. Dawn

    Feminism is not dead so long as there are people like my boss around. My boss is incredibly sexist in a time where there should be equality. The one man who works here gets everything better than the women who work here. It's terrible for that to be the case at this day and age.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:13 am |
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